The world striving for white, except in the white world

Buzz Lightyear:

In the US, the issue of race has always been a hot button issue. We are race conscious and race sensitive. Equality, equity, affirmative action, diversity, profiling, stereotyping…any of these ring a bell? Though we are far from reaching racial harmony, the discourse of its creation is very public. It’s talked about in politics, in education, in the work place, and many other milieus.

In Mexico, it’s different. First of all, besides a very small black and asian population, there isn’t really any racial heterogeny. There are indigenous people, mestizos (mixed), and geuros (white). It would be convenient if we could classify everyone in one of these groups but the truth is that most people are a shade of gray. Indigenous groups that are more rural and have less contact with the rest of Mexico are relatively poor and dark skinned. But just like black Americans descending from African slaves, the blood has been mixed so many times that they hardly look like the typical image of an indigenous Mayan.

A guero means a light skinned person. Gueros are found everywhere from rural to urban Mexico. Sometimes, there are towns like Villa Aleman where German immigrants settled and much of the population has blue or green eyes. Many light skinned people have Spanish or Italian heritage. And sometimes, a recessive gene pops out and creates a guero in a family of morenos (dark skinned).

However, we can safely say that the great majority of Mexicans fall between the two. We say mestizo, but it is important to realize that there is much variance in shade. And this shade counts.

Like most of the non-white world, lighter skin is considered more attractive. So if you are wealthy, chances are you have a guera wife. This has affected the genetics so much over the years that one rarely sees a dark mestizo in a business suit. The upper crust society of Mexico is almost exclusively guero and some don’t look any different than a typical Anglo-Saxon.

But while America has minorities in it’s TV shows, movies, and entertainment industry, Mexico does not. News anchors, pop singers, talk show hosts, actors and actresses of both TV and movies are gueros. Shoot, that’s not entirely true. In the telenovellas (soap operas), the maids and servants are always darker mestizos. Of course.

And what is an indigenous person? Some indigenous people told me that it’s when they can speak the native language. I responded by asking what happens if they have kids that don’t learn (this is happening more and more). When I was in Uxpanapa, my friend shrugged his shoulders when I told him that I discovered his town was an indigenous village. It seemed strange to him because though he and the community spoke Chinanteco, they didn’t live in the mountains, they didn’t know any traditional dances, they listened to Ranchero music, they watched the same TV shows as everyone else. So, what exactly is an indigenous person?

It’s kinda frustrating when they ask me why Americans don’t like Mexicans. Racism or ‘the other’ is part of all cultures, and though America has its fair share problems, so does Mexico. I don’t remember if I’ve already mentioned this, but I was telling a friend of mine about all the Mexicans who tell me that Americans can be racist and in the same breath, tell me that they don’t like Blacks. He told me an ironic joke that went something like this…A Mexican comes back from El Norte and his friend’s are asking him if it was difficult there. He told them there were only two things he didn’t like about America. The racism and the fucking blacks.

I don’t want to simplify the situation into dark skinned versus light skinned because, like in America, it is more complicated. Skin color intersects with class, which intersects with culture, which intersects with policy and history and on and on.

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